Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.


Africa's 4G User Base Doubling Every Year — Report

Article Image
The total number of 4G users in Africa has been doubling every year since 2015 and is expected to reach 90 million by the end of 2018, according to research firm Xalam Analytics, which estimates that by 2021 there will be more 4G users than 3G users across the continent.

The research firm, in a new report titled The State of African 4G, also expects 4G user numbers across Africa to top 350 million in 2023.

On top of the strong momentum, the researchers also identified a few key issues impacting the uptake of mobile broadband access in Africa. In particular, the report highlights the imbalance in 4G coverage, which is particularly weak in sub-Saharan countries and in non-urban areas. Among the key reasons for the low 4G adoption rates, the report highlights the lack of efficient spectrum (for example, in the 800 MHz band) available to operators, and the high of spectrum licenses.

"The most cost-effective way to deploy broadband access networks can be done through two things: making digital dividend and 800 MHz spectrum available, as a matter of urgency; and removing obstacles to effective competition on terrestrial fiber infrastructure, so as to make it available to all providers on equal, commercial terms," Guy Zibi, Founder of Xalam Analytics and lead author of the report, told Connecting Africa. "We believe those two ingredients, combined with competition at the service layer, would help drive the scale you need to bring down data prices further and increase adoption. But it's fairly difficult to achieve, as things stand," noted Zibi.

By "difficult to achieve," the researchers refer not only to the change in the regulatory environment, but also the lack of profitable business cases for mobile operators. Large numbers of users may embrace 4G but the ARPU is not growing proportionate to the cost of the network, making 4G in Africa likely to follow the trap of 3G in Europe, with large user bases but disappointing operator profit margins.

When asked if the "disaggregated network" technologies championed by the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) would help drive down network costs and in turn improve business incentives to operators, Zibi agreed that "disaggregated networks would certainly help, but can really only be effective once the spectrum and terrestrial fiber conditions have been met." (See MTN Vows to Connect the Unconnected With Facebook-Inspired TIP Tech.)

— Wei Shi, Site Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub


Safaricom launches M-Pesa 'super app'

Safaricom has launched its long-awaited M-Pesa 'super app' with new features like offline mode as well as mini-apps within the app.


Hot startup of the month: Nigeria's Bankly

Nigerian startup Bankly is digitizing cash for people who work in the informal sector and helping unbanked Nigerians save money, invest and gain access to credit and other financial services.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: May 2021

By Omdia Analysts

This month, Omdia's analysts provide context and analysis about new licenses for operators in Ethiopia and Uganda, and Nigeria's 5G rollout plans.


Omdia View: April 2021

By Omdia Analysts

This month, Omdia's analysts provide context around Ethiopia's telecoms licensing process, Millicom's plans to exit Tanzania and Ghana, and Airtel Africa's successful capital raise.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

AfricaCom perspectives


Digital inclusion as a catalyst for economic empowerment: Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu

Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu talks to Connecting Africa about how digital payment solutions and mobile money are transforming the lives of small business owners, women and marginalized groups in East Africa.


Accelerating women in STEM: In conversation with GirlCode's Tinyiko Simbine

GirlCode co-founder and CFO Tinyiko Simbine talks about why it's important to help girls and young women excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.


How Poa Internet is unlocking meaningful connectivity in East Africa

Poa Internet's CEO Andy Halsall shares his views on what it takes to develop last-mile connectivity and get Africans online in a meaningful way.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Upcoming events

North Africa Com
July 13-14, 2021
Virtual Event
Asia Tech x Singapore
July 13-16, 2021
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Africa Tech Festival
November 8-12, 2021
Cape Town, South Africa
More Upcoming events

Flash poll

All polls

Archived webinars

Technologies and business models to connect the next billion

Nearly half the planet remains unconnected at a time when COVID-19 has forced people’s reliance on the Internet and digital technologies higher than ever before. Bridging the digital divide to provide Mobile Internet access – the main driver of digital inclusion – is exceedingly important in the current context. Overcoming this connectivity crisis represents a growth opportunity for Mobile Network Operators (MNO) to expand their services outside of the crowded, highly competitive urban markets.

In this webinar we will focus on solutions that help MNOs close both the coverage gap and the usage gap.

Key topics include:

  • What are the barriers to overcome increased Mobile Internet adoption?
  • How to match deployments cost with expected revenue?
  • Operator success story

More Webinars

Sponsored video

More videos

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up